Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Moderates in Turky --
This piece at TPMCafe is written by George Washington University sociology and international relations professor Amitai Etzioni.

In it, Etzioni notes that a constitutional amendment in Turkey will lead to an observant Muslim holding the presidency, where in the past the military has exercised a veto of sorts to insist that parliament appoint a secular head of state. Etzioni argues that imposed secularism goes against the Turkish majority and drives moderate Muslims into the arms of extremists.

Importantly, the Turkish majority favors a moderate Islamic society and is no longer enamored with a dominantly secular one. (After all, secularism was imposed on Turkey, in the first place, by a fierce autocrat and the military.) When the AKP won an outright majority of seats in Parliament in 2002, it became the first non-secular Turkish party to have done so in 15 years, signaling a significant religious attachment among the Turkish people at large, despite eighty years of state-imposed secularism. Denying the majority a political expression is likely to alienate these voters who favor a moderate Islamic government, pushing them toward the extremists.

Most importantly: the same change of strategy must be applied to much of the Muslim world. Large segments of it will not be satisfied with secularism; to counter Islamists it is best to support the moderate Muslims found in droves in nations such as Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malaysia, rather than merely secular parties. Just as Social Democrats were often a better antidote to Communists than the conservatives, so the texts and leaders of nonviolent, moderate religious parties are the most promising way to curb Islamists. Indeed moderate religious parties are found as key participants in numerous democratic societies in Europe and in Israel.

President Reagan used to say that God should not be kept out of the classroom—as if a bunch of educators could prevent his presence. Politicians should take note: they cannot keep God out of politics, either. The only choice they have is which of His messages they will object to if sought by the voters: those that sanctify suicide bombers and car bombs—the God of the terrorists—or those that call for humility, modesty, teaching of the scriptures and non violence? Those who call for jihad as a holy war to kill all the infidels, or those who see jihad as a spiritual journey of self improvement?

With the recent death of Jerry Fallwell, I use this moment to reflect on the Religious Right. The movement embodies a non-trivial percentage of the population. It would be wrong to disenfranchise them by imposing secularism with a heavy hand. Doing so has driven them to despise the state. Religious conservatives should have sufficient liberty that they feel they have a chance to fulfill their goals, or to create grudgingly acceptable compromises, through the democratic process. Not that they should have guaranteed success, just a guaranteed seat at the table.
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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Nelly on Don Imus --
Via noted poker theorist David Sklansky:

He was playing NLH last night at the Bellagio and I asked him whether he thought Imus should have been fired.

He answered that at first he didn't. But he changed his mind when Imus "instead of taking his medicine like a man" resorted to pointing fingers at rappers like him even though the the situations are not at all the same. I couldn't quarrel with that answer.
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Monday, May 07, 2007

I Sort of Wish I Could Coerce Libertarians to Shut Up --
Not that expression of such a desire would sway any libertarian. However, Richard Chappell takes a look at property and coercion and some errors in libertarian philosophy.
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The Rubicon That Must Be Crossed by the "Anyone But Hillary" Crowd --
There exists on the left a certain sentiment of "Anyone But Hillary." In this era of party unity, it isn't talked about much, but it is obvious from the Daily Kos straw poll that she is not an exciting candidate for a good segment of the Democratic Party.

Recently, Markos Moulitos wrote in the Washington Post:

In person, Clinton is one of the warmest politicians I've ever met, but her advisers have stripped what personality she has, hiding it from the public. Some of that may be a product of her team's legendary paranoia, somewhat understandable given the knives out for her. But what remains is a heartless, passionless machine, surrounded by the very people who ground down the activist base in the 1990s and have continued to hold the party's grassroots in utter contempt. The operation is rudderless, without any sign of significant leadership. And to top it off, a sizable number of Democrats don't think she could win a general election, anyway.

Take this in conjunction with the comments of blueflorida highlighted by Chris Bowers:

This has been described before many times but to put it in the simplest (Brooks-ian)terms: there are the children of 1972, the children of 1992, and the children of 2000. The children of '72 transformed the country culturally but were inept at the nuts-and-bolts of electoral politics and were oblivious of a conservative counter-revolution happening in less-urban parts of the country. They have been stuck in the attic by the children of 1992 for about 20 years, but were let out (with conditions) by the children of 2000.

The children of 1992 have nothing but contempt for the children of 1972, holding them responsible for the catastrophic presidential defeats of '68, '72, '80, '84, and '88. They currently dominate the party leadership and they hold as articles of faith the perception that modern America is basically a center-right nation that only votes for Dems if Dems confine their progressive message to pocketbook topics and embrace a basically conservative posture on crime and national security issues.

We've spent more than six years lambasting George W. Bush for not only being an incompentent, but surrounding himself with incompetents. Even if you take the Atrios line of liking Hillary but hating the people she surrounds herself with, you're left with a potential administration filled with retreads and apologists for Bill Clinton's presidency.

Earlier, Chris Bowers wrote back in February:

Hillary Clinton is extremely popular among the Democratic rank and file. The only way to defeat her is to have someone who is a more preferable choice, not someone who is merely an acceptable alternative. Democrats overwhelmingly like Clinton, and as such are only going to turn to other candidates they like even more, not other candidates they dislike less.

Bowers concludes that Obama and Edwards must build each other up, rather than tear each other down, but he misses the boat. Obama and Edwards must tear Hillary Clinton down to have a chance. And the first to fire a strong salvo at Hillary Clinton will have a chance to dominate political news converage.

And here in front of us is the Rubicon. Once crossed, there is no turning back. Its crossing can be delayed, but it has to be crossed inevitably if one seeks the prize. At some point in time, the "Anyone But Hillary" crowd must go on offensive, even if their chosen candidate or candidates do not. And in doing so, they should strongly consider throwing overboard the triangulating legacy of Bill Clinton and the "generation of '92". The Clinton years were not a great time for the Democratic Party and their mediocrity seems favorable only when placed next to the stunningly flawed Bush administration we have now. But (barring a spectacular and fortuitous collapse) no one is going to overtake Hillary Clinton without taking her down.
(5:56 PM) 0 comments

Sunday, May 06, 2007

This Is Stupid --
Via MSNBC, a soccer game intended to promote interfaith dialogue has been cancelled.

Why, you may ask?

Church of Norway spokesman Olav Fykse Tveit said the imams refused to play against a mixed-gender team of priests because it would have gone against their beliefs in avoiding close physical contact with strange women.

The church decided to drop its female players, and the priests' team captain walked out in protest.

I'm sorry, but what did you think was going to happen? The Church of Norway, or that subset of it that was in charge of setting up the game, are complete and utter idiots who show a lack of awareness and sensitivity toward Muslims. Anyone with a brain in Norway would have either a) established well beforehand that it was going to be a male-only match or b) not scheduled the match in the first place.
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The Seven-Step Program for American Right-Wing Catholics --
Over at Reasons and Opinions, Morning's Minion has this hilarious, tongue-in-cheek description of right-wing Catholics.
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Bias Against Evangelicals in the Classroom --
The Washington post leads off the story with the tale of Missouri State social work major Emily Brooker, who was charged with discrimination for refusing to sign a class assignment consisting of a letter to state legislators supporting adoption by same-sex couples. Her lawsuit was settled, with the discrimination charge stricken from her record and her graduate school studies paid for.

The university president also called for an independent investigation by two outside scholars, the deans of social work at Indiana University and the University of Tennessee.

In a scathing report in March, they wrote that many students and faculty members at Missouri State's School of Social Work "stated a fear of voicing differing opinions," particularly about spiritual matters. They found such a "toxic" climate of intellectual "bullying" that they suggested shutting down the social work school and restarting it with a new faculty.

This doesn't surprise me. Being outside of the mainstream or being outside of the majority is inherently frightening. I don't believe that it is possible to make any minority group completely comfortable with being the minority.

The article also points to a possible measure of bias.

The other survey, by the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research, confirmed those findings but also found what the institute's director and chief pollster, Gary A. Tobin, called an "explosive" statistic: 53 percent of its sample of 1,200 college and university faculty members said they have "unfavorable" feelings toward evangelical Christians.

Tobin asked professors at all kinds of colleges -- public and private, secular and religious, two-year and four-year -- to rate their feelings toward various religious groups, from very warm or favorable to very cool or unfavorable. He said he designed the question primarily to gauge anti-Semitism but found that professors expressed positive feelings toward Jews, Buddhists, Roman Catholics and most other religious groups.

The only groups that elicited highly negative responses were evangelical Christians and Mormons.

"When we ask questions like this, we're asking the respondent to say how they feel about an entire group of people, and whatever image they have of that entire group comes through," Tobin said. "There is no question this is revealing bias and prejudice."

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, disagreed. What the poll reflects, he said, is "a political and cultural resistance, not a form of religious bias."

Nelson, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the unfavorable feelings toward evangelical Christians probably have two causes: "the particular kind of Republican Party activism that some evangelicals have engaged in over the years, as well as what faculty perceive as the opposition to scientific objectivity among some evangelicals."

William B. Harvey, vice president for diversity and equity at the University of Virginia, said that even if the survey has correctly identified a "latent sentiment" among professors, "I don't know that it is fair to make the leap . . . that this is manifested in some bias in the classroom."


Tobin, the pollster, acknowledged that his survey did not measure how professors act, only how they feel. But he said the levels of disapproval are high enough to raise questions about how evangelical Christians are treated.

"If a majority of faculty said they did not feel warmly about Muslims or Jews or Latinos or African Americans, there would be an outcry. No one would attempt to justify or explain those feelings. No one would say, 'The reason they feel this way is because they don't like the politics of blacks or the politics of Jews.' That would be unthinkable," Tobin said.

Tobin's point is very accurate. What would be the reaction if someone stated that distate for homosexuality was "cultural resistance" and not "a form of religious bias". As quoted, Nelson and Harvey seem defensive and unwilling to consider further study into the topic. Shouldn't they have the intellectual curiosity to see if there is actual bias in the classroom?
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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Watching Iraq for Religious Freedom --
Via USA Today: Iraq was added to U.S. religious freedom watchlist.

Citing gross violations of the rights of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, as well as followers of numerous minority beliefs, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom added Iraq to its "watch list" on Wednesday. Violations included arbitrary arrests, torture and rape.

Iraq joins Afghanistan, Belarus, Egypt, Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia and Nigeria on the list. Their designation is a notch below the designation "country of particular concern," which would make them subject to possible U.S. sanctions.

Three of the four Democratic appointees to the 10-member congressionally named commission differed with the Republican majority, arguing that conditions are so bad in Iraq the commission should have taken that next step.

The four Democratic appointees are:
-Ricardo Ramirez, the Catholic Bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico
-Preeta Bansal, the India-born former New York State Solicitor General who is now a partner in the prestigious and mega-rich Skadden law firm. (Another current partner is Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett, while past partners have included Laura Ingraham and Eliot Spitzer.)
-Vice-Chair Elizabeth Prodromou, a professor in international relations at Boston University
-Chair Felice D. Gaer, director of The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of The American Jewish Committee, who has an extensive resume in the field of human rights.

Some notable Republican appointees are:
-Denver archbishop Charles Chaput, who gained some notoriety in 2004 for statements about pro-abortion Catholic politicians
-Southern Baptist bigwig and radio host Eugene Land

I wonder which of the Democratic appointees didn't argue that Iraq should be added to Burma, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam as "countries of particular concern."
(7:34 PM) 0 comments

Sounds Like a Threat to Me --
Via the BBC, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe says that his country's bishops are on a "dangerous path".

He said they would be treated as politicians and not spiritual leaders.

He was responding to an open letter published over Easter, in which they warned of a mass uprising unless free elections are held.

"Many people in Zimbabwe are angry, and their anger is now erupting into open revolt," the letter said.

Mr Mugabe, a Catholic, said he would have told the bishops they were talking "nonsense" if he had seen the letter in church.

"Once [the bishops] turn political, we regard them as no longer spiritual and our relations with them would be conducted as if we are dealing with political entities and this is quite a dangerous path they have chosen for themselves," he is reported as saying in The Herald newspaper.

I believe that the Catholic Church has a legitimate role in speaking about politics and this is a valid example.
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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Deconstructing the MySpace Controversy --
Cross-posted to MyDD:

Instead of exploring the "he said/she said" aspect of this, I want to look into why people might feel the way they do about this much-talked-about scenario.

First, let's take the perspective of someone working in the Obama campaign who is confronted with a request for $40,000.  How much is a campaign worker paid (if that worker is not a volunteer)?  How does an annual salary of $60,000 sound?  At least, that's that the average political campaign worker's annual salary after 10-15 years, according to the Princeton Review.  Imagine that someone is asking for almost as much money as you make in a year for a few months of part-time work that your teenage son could have done.  How does that make you feel?  Wouldn't you feel like you're being extorted?

Now, let's take the perspective of some parts of the blogosphere.  Let's face it, some people have dreams of fame and fortune by becoming a political blogger.  There's a ton of Daily Kos drama caused by people angling for front pager gigs.  The Obama campaign saying they refuse to pay x dollars sets a cap on how much one could possibly hope to make from blogging and citizen net activities that don't require a degree in computer science.  This crushed some dreams, and people have responded angrily.  Wouldn't you lash out if you felt that someone was threatening your valuation of your self-worth?

(3:25 PM) 0 comments